Understanding Each Other

The leader of the separatist movement to begin a new denomination apart from the Anglican Communion is a fellow named Akinola, the current archbishop of Nigeria. From my point of view he is an out of control, power hungry, greedy, megalomaniac in whom Christ is completely hidden if not absent altogether. But in a conversation on another website (In a Godward Direction) I said that he is, after all, Nigerian not American, and we cannot understand him until we can put ourselves into the soul of a Nigerian, and, more particularly, into the soul of his own tribe. What followed were several responses claiming that, as (Anglican) Christians, we all share one faith in God through Christ that gives us a common language and way of understanding each other. On that basis we are free to judge him in the name of Christ, and our judgment is one that all right thinking Christians will agree with thanks to our common Christian language. I find that incredibly naïve, and am astonished that otherwise intelligent, well educated people fail to see that our idea of what it is to be a Christian is so interwoven with who we are as Americans, with our foundational myths and legends, with whatever ethnic heritage we claim, with our history, with all of that and more, that the language of Christ we claim to be common is common only to us, and we even disagree with each other about that. I find it exceedingly curious that these commentators, most of whom would self declare as politically liberal, are in lockstep agreement with George Bush that our way of seeing the world must be the way all right thinking people see the world, or at least they should, and perhaps if we explain it better in slow, loud English, they will. I doubt that we are alone in that self-deception. I imagine that all peoples everywhere suffer likewise. But because of America’s power position the world today, it is we Americans who come off as the arrogant ones of enormous hubris who desire to impose our ways on others. That means that American religious leaders cannot separate themselves from the tangled web of American foreign policy, and the image of American life and values broadcast to the world through television and movies. Only through some effort to understand all of that will it be possible for true conversation between the peoples of Christian faith to take place, even within the Anglican Communion.

4 thoughts on “Understanding Each Other”

  1. Well said. As an Englishwoman with all the echoes of our Imperialist past still loud in our ears, I can completely identify with what you say on being American.It has been all too easy – from the Crusades onwards – to assume that God is on our side and that our view of God(whoever \”we\” are) is the right one.All that said, I haven\’t heard of this person Ankinola, but I don\’t like the sound of what he\’s doing. Off to do a bit of Googling…

  2. Whew! Did you write that in one fell swoop? ….and what do you really think????I would agree with you, although your post comes down with the force/no prisoners taken that \”one\” might expect from another\’s pen…I also strongly agree with your point that Tess\’s remark recalls \”it has been all too easy, etc…..\”

  3. I probably should have added that I suffer under no illusion that Ankinola, or any person of another culture, will take the trouble to understand us. And I think it does little good to whine that they should at least try, to countersue that they are the arrogant ones, or strike a pugilistic posture in defense of America\’s ways. What we need to do is take on the humble task of knowing the other on the other\’s own terms. That is the path down which we will find open doors and light.

  4. \”What we need to do is take on the humble task of knowing the other on the other\’s own terms. That is the path down which we will find open doors and light.\”That\’s a much more kind and articulate way of saying something that\’s been floating around my head this week for a presentation on Thomas Merton next week. Thanks!-Chase

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